An Essay by Pedro Alberto Cruz

Minister of Culture for the region Murcia, Spain

When on first glance we observe some of the public installations of Arne Quinze (Belgium, 1971) such as, for example, The Sequence (Brussels, 2008), Camille (Rouen, 2010) or Red Beacon (Shanghai, 2010), one of the initial ideas that persists is that these pergolas he presents in streets, gardens and on bridges constitute a kind of impressionism which at first is difficult to pin down. This afilliation with impressionism, far from being the result of an intuition with no margin for movement, is soon revealed as a crucial aspect of the thought and practice of Quinze himself. In fact, one of his latest and most acclaimed series, Gardens (2010), is based on the celebrated cycle that Monet painted in the garden of his home in Giverny, Waterlilies.

The above classification of Arne Quinze as an "impressionist" artist can't be reduced to either a mere inference of an aesthetic kind made on a pre-analytical level, nor even less to the particular fact that the artist might have paid tribute to one of the father's of modern painting, in this case Monet. When I speak of "impressionism" in the present context, I only mean to indicate, in effect, the conceptual base on which Quinze constructs the entire discursive edifice of his work. In this sense, we shouldn't forget that "impression" is a term that comes from the Latin verb imprimere, meaning literally "to make a mark via pressure; apply by means of pressure; to leave a mark." The notion of "impressionism" in the sense that I wish to apply it to Arne Quinze's work, refers to the quality of an object tending to receiving impressions from the exterior world, so that its structure is modified by a mark that introduces an element of instability into its architecture. To express it in other, perhaps more clarifying terms, the impressionist quality of Quinze's art inclines his work toward a study of affects; that is, toward the way which one body affects another, projecting itself into it in the form of a mark that functions like a "mark of dependence" with regard to everything considered as exterior to it.

In order to understand, in its full dimensions, this "theory of affects" which underlies Quinze's discursive project, it's necessary to compare the above-mentioned public installations with sculptural series such as Chaos or Stilthouse. In Chaos, for example, the Belgian artist introduces thousands of red and blue-colored wooden strips into a glass jar, in an attempt to create an x-ray of the inside of his mind. The interesting thing in this regard is that the glass container which functions as a recipient for these monochrome compositions end up underlining the solitary and self-absorbed attitude of the contemporary subject, unable to interact with other individuals for fear of losing it own autonomy. The models of subjectivity currently predominant tend to make of the ego an inclusive reality, satiated with itself, and as a result requiring no external contribution in order to complete its experiential expectations.

Strictly speaking, what Quinze reveals in Chaos is that, by means of the withdrawn construction which distinguishes the contemporary subject, what effectively occurs is an updating of the paradigm of the autonomous ego proposed by classical philosophy, based on the unavoidable condition of eradicating any feeling or "passion" that would surrender the subject to any external circumstance.

Indeed, the denial which the passions have been and continue to be subjected to in western thought obeys the need to defend the integrity of the ontos in the face of the danger of a weakening of the will, able to annul it as a structure of strong decision. The emotions introduce an element of instability into being, the result of its contact with the other, of its contamination by aspects remote from it and which form no part of its strictly personal sphere. When, with regard to this, Quinze removes his wooden strips from the glass jars in Chaos and transposes them (much enlarged) to urban interventions such as The Sequence or Camille, a radical "opening effect" takes place, in virtue of which the power of the piece increases (and by inclusion, of all passersby) as a "impressionable" structure. Any one of Quinze's "pergolas" define a context of suffering, by which the subject participating in it is "marked" by a series of situational data that coincide in the space of turbulence.

For Quinze, the only way to generate new frames of sociability is to move from the model of the "complete subject" to that of the "unstable subject," a transition that he doesn't hesitate to show in a series like Stilthouse in which a group of narrow structures, supported upon slender pillars, present the idea of vulnerable human bodies, open to accident, to the sudden collapse of the entire structure. From the viewpoint defined by these pieces, there can be no interaction among individuals if it's not based on the assumption of a series of risks or possibilities of failure, the consequence of the ontological destabilizing to which the subject is exposed. Quinze's public installations redefine social space as a context of maximum porosity, flexible, and facilitating experiential flows of diverse nature which provide alternative models of interaction.

One of the elements that shouldn't be ignored when examining these interventions in urban space is that, in contrast to what is usually the case in relational aesthetics (whose primary motivation is also the generation of new possibilities of life), the artistic action doesn't aim to become diluted in quotidian dynamics with the aim of reducing its defining aesthetic elements, but rather, to the contrary, it aims to strengthen to the maximum its "effect of presence," converting it into an effective way of establishing certain frames of exception vis-à-vis experience. Quinze's public projects (and more broadly his entire production) function as superimposed structures, intended to break the uniform continuity of the urban landscape. His modus operandi proceeds by producing an "emotional rupture" that interrupts the system of established relations, plunging, in consequence, hegemonic models of behavior into a state of undoubtedly suggestive instability.

The principal reason for the success of these pieces resides in the fact that such "emotional ruptures" suppose a suspension of "sameness" as a regulating principle of social exchange, as well as the subsequent introduction, in its place, of otherness as a structuring factor of any politics of exchange. The city itself is, in this sense, conceived as a weakened body, open, at the mercy of transformations that it can experience as a consequence of the different actions that take place from the exterior of its outdated model of life. The point is, finally, to conceive social praxis from the perspective not of the logic of a rational program, but from the materialism of the passionate accident; "materialism" being understood in this case as the althusserian concept by which one impinges on this unfolding of the social which has no origin, no final meaning, and hence no sole and clear direction able to capitalize, in questions of identity, on all the individual and collective synergies. 

Pedro Alberto Cruz is Minister of Culture for the region Murcia, Spain